Florida: Wishful Thinking
Florida quarterback Tim Tebow needs both shoulders to play his best. Yes, he's got a powerful left throwing arm, but just as powerful is his head-down, hit-you-in-the-mouth running style that has not been quite the same since he suffered a bruise to that non-throwing shoulder three weeks ago. He was not himself in the team's loss to Georgia, and it became apparent how much the Gators need a healthy right shoulder on their QB. It looks like Vanderbilt was nice to Tebow, however, as the sophomore told head coach Urban Meyer that he is within striking distance of feeling 100 percent because he did not take a single hit against Vandy last Saturday. Except that Meyer isn't sure he believes his starting QB.
The Gators take on South Carolina this weekend, and Meyer would really like to believe that what Tebow said is true, but when it comes to injuries, with this slick Gator, one never can tell.
"Tim's not the most honest guy when it deals with injuries," Meyer said. "He's going to be so defensive about it - I'm fine, I'm fine, I'm fine. He made the comment to me this week he thinks it's as close to 100 percent as it's been because he did not get hit one time."
Tebow carried just six times for 35 yards against Vanderbilt, his lowest number of rushing attempts of the season. He made up for it throwing the ball, completing 22 of 27 passes for 281 yards and three touchdowns, but Tebow's game has decidedly not been the same since he bruised his shoulder against Kentucky on Oct. 20.
The Florida coaches decided to limit his carries to minimize his chances of taking further hits to the shoulder, but all has not gone according to plan - against Georgia two weeks ago, Tebow carried 13 times: four called runs, three scrambles and six sacks. The offensive line needs to get the memo, also; if Tebow's not going to run, they're going to have to protect him.
Tebow has taken a pain-killer injection before each of his last two games, but hopes he can get back to his regular running self, averaging 20 carries per game, for South Carolina. But Meyer might have other plans.
"Ideally, we do not want to [have] a 20-time-a-game quarterback run," Meyer said. "We want to have him be a threat."
On the bright side, Tebow's injury has unquestionably helped his reads in the pocket, forcing him deeper into his progressions than he went when the possibility of running was always staring him in the face. The difference showed against Vanderbilt, where Tebow redirected his protections better than he's done all season, and the O-line did not give up a single sack against the conference's leading sack defense.
If Tebow's pocket improvement continues, he will have a choice once his shoulder is fully up to speed - does he want to go back to his reckless running ways, or can he be a pocket passer? This injury may have succeeded in elevating Tebow's game like nothing else could have, and for a sophomore Heisman candidate, that's a scary though for the rest of the SEC.